LINK: Psalm 78
Asaph, the poet God inspired to compose this psalm, reminds the parents of Israel to tell their children the stories from history that they were supposed to have been told by their parents. What is the purpose in telling the history? It is so that their children might praise God for His power and provision; so that they will set their hope on God; and so that they can, in turn, pass the story on to their children as a kind of cautionary tale.
As we begin 2 Samuel and the reign of David as King of Israel, this psalm reminds us of the importance of what we’ve read so far in the Old Testament. We read in this psalm a summary of how God provided miraculously for the Israelites over and over again, and how, time after time, they rebelled against Him by refusing to trust Him. The message is clear. Learn from history! Don’t follow the pattern of disbelief that characterized the Israelites.
The psalm does end on an encouraging note, with David the shepherd king – a man who shepherded not only sheep, but people, too, with integrity of heart.
Sometimes the word “but” is so sad. It’s frequently a sad word in this psalm.
Look at the cycle that is repeated:
The psalm tells how over and over again God demonstrated His powerful care for His people. Just look at a little of what He does: God divided the sea so they could pass through, led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night, split rock and caused streams to flow from it so they could drink.
And then there’s that word “but.”
“But they sinned even more against Him/ By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness./ And they tested God in their heart…”
Look at the rest of the psalm. Notice all that God did for His people. Yet they continued to sin by not trusting Him and His power. Verse 41 says, “Again and again they tempted God,/ and limited the Holy One of Israel./ They did not remember his power:/ The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.”
When I read this psalm I get impatient with the people of Israel. How could they respond like that to the God who cared for them so miraculously? How could they forget Him so quickly?
Then I realize that I often do the same thing. I have seen God's provision for me and my family. I have been told ways He was active in the past in my parents’ lives. I have been redeemed from the Enemy! How quickly I forget. How quickly I demand “food” I want. I am so quick to love myself and so slow to love God.
So I am thankful for the time that little word “but” is good news!
“But He (God), being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,/ and did not destroy them. … He remembered that they were but flesh.”
I am so glad that God is merciful and full of compassion in the face of our weakness and sinfulness.
If you have the time, sit down with this psalm and list all the miraculous ways God provided for His people. Then list the ways they responded. How did they demonstrate their lack of trust?
Here are a few that hit me:
They willfully put God to the test.
They demanded food they craved.
They did not believe in God.
They were ungrateful.
They didn’t trust in His deliverance.
They lied to Him.
Their hearts weren’t loyal.
They were unreliable.
What do you see?
Learn from this psalm. That’s why it’s here. Don’t be like the Israelites.
Help us to learn from this parable from history, Lord. Thank you for your miraculous provision for us. Keep us from self-centeredness. Help us to respond to you in trust and obedience and integrity.